Archive for the 'Teacher Education' Category

Where Are Our Alumni? Catching Up With Thess Dobbs

In this #ThrowbackThursday post, we catch up with one of our alumni who participated in an undergraduate version of our Masters in STEM Teaching program, Thess Dobbs. Currently teaching at Milwaukee School of Languages, Thess was recently awarded the Edyth Sliffe Award for Distinguished Teaching in Middle School and High School. Read on to hear more about what she’s been doing since graduating!

thessI teach high school math at Milwaukee School of Languages (MSL). At MSL I also lead the math club, which I started in 2014. In this club, we work on more challenging math that goes above and beyond the standard curriculum. Our students have the opportunity to wrestle with challenging competition-level problems and receive guidance to help them build their skills. Through fundraising we make all activities free or low-cost for our students, and we are proud to make these opportunities, often reserved for privileged students at elite schools, accessible to our students. The racial disparities in the STEM fields begin with the inequities in our school systems, and the process to end those disparities must also start with our schools.

Originally, I am from Milwaukee and grew up with a lot of brothers and sisters. My dad is a professor, and both my parents placed a strong emphasis on learning. Being a big sister made me a natural teacher. The Noyce Program gave me more hands-on experience than the typical pre-service teacher has. It wasn’t until student teaching that I really had to learn how to manage a classroom, but the relationships built during my field placements helped me maintain my confidence during the hard times later on. Thanks to the amount of time spent in field placements, I also got a good sense of the school culture of a few different schools.

Even though we aren’t in touch as much as we used to be, I feel the bond still exists between the Noyce Scholars in my cohort. All the formative experiences we shared as undergraduates are not easily forgotten. One person who inspires me is my grandma, Leona Sherrod, who passed away three years ago. She taught in public school for eighteen years, and taught for eighteen more years in prisons’ adult education programs. Though she is gone now, I’m glad she got to see me become a teacher too.

Interested in learning more about how you can pursue your Masters Degree and Wisconsin Teaching Licensure in just fourteen months? Our Noyce Scholars graduate program is accepting applications through February of 2019!

Becoming a Social Studies Teacher

This post originally appeared on Dr. Gibson’s Medium page.

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“painting of man” by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

By Melissa Gibson

The other night, I had an anxiety dream. In it, I was conducting research at an international school on its approach to civic education (you know, part of what I do in real life). My host was a teacher I know well, with whom I’ve worked in Peru. But before I could get started, he said I needed to meet with the principal. I entered her office, where another social studies teacher was waiting; across from us, the principal sat at her large desk, her head slung down while she napped. Worst nightmare of a job interview EVER.

Eventually, the principal jolted awake and leered at both of us. Our college transcripts were in front of her. She inspected each, and then looked at us with disgust: “Why would I hire YOU, either of you, to teach social studies when you do not even have good survey history courses on your university transcript? How can you even pretend to be social studies teachers?!” The other woman, who was clearly interviewing for a teaching job at the school, began to explain how her high school offered a plethora of college-level survey courses, and so when she got to college, she was able to move into advanced history seminars. She showed off her flashy knowledge of dates and names, and then went down a wormhole about some 1800s Navy admiral she was obsessed with. She ended with a summary of her students’ AP scores for the past twenty years. The principal nodded, clearly assuaged.

Then she turned to me. “What about you, little miss interdisciplinary?”
I gulped. I began my usual explanation of what it means to have studied Women’s Studies as an undergraduate, the various social science lenses on the same questions. I showed her on my transcript the “surveys” of sociology, history, literature, political science, but how they were all focused on questions of gender. And as I explained what I had studied, I grew more animated in my explanations of how I study these topics. The principal seemed unimpressed.

Gathering steam, I tried to give a narrative of how I came to this place in my intellectual career: I talked about not seeing myself in the curriculum (or in my classmates) and seeking academic spaces that honored the questions I was asking as legitimate intellectual inquiry. I talked about questioning dominant narratives, and moving back and forth between the various disciplinary cannons and critical theorists and scholars. I talked about my discovery late in life of how thrilling history can be when it is more than a collection of dates and names. I may have shown her the syllabus to my methods courses. I definitely showed her the documentaries and podcasts and blogs that my students have written in my social studies classes.

Eventually, she relented, agreeing that while my training was non-traditional, I clearly knew how to ask questions and get students to do some work (there may have been a tirade about lazy millenials and the ills of technology). She looked about to nod off for a nap again (and I really wanted to ask a snide question about what work she did if she spent so much time napping), so I mustered the courage to ask permission to conduct my research, which she granted. The next thing I knew, the dream had morphed into a murder mystery complete with chupacabras, and instead of conducting research on civic education, I was helping high school students escape some murderous blob-ghost thing, which liked to strike during football games. Also, there were rickshaw rides and a lack of child care for my own children so…definitely an anxiety dream.

School is finally back in full swing here in Milwaukee, and we are hunkering down at Marquette to dig into the meat of our courses. And on the eve of these intellectual journeys, I guess my sub-conscious needed to pause to reflect on what it means to be a scholar of social studies education, especially when one isn’t a traditional social scientist or historian. I talked my own imposter syndrome down in the dream, as evidenced by the principal’s relent, but I woke up aware of that always present feeling of self-doubt. Which, believe it or not, is important for me to hold onto. Not because it’s a valid self-critique but because it reminds me of how my pre-service teachers may feel in my methods courses and in their placements—not quite the real deal. And that self-doubt can be paralyzing. Part of my job as their methods instructor is to help them see the multiple ways that we can become scholars of teaching, and that our most powerful intellectual tools are the questions we ask.

This publication, which we will add to throughout the school year, is a record of their journeys learning to ask good questions. Along the way, they will uncover resources, stories, places, and instruction that just may help you become a better social studies teacher, too—whether this is your first year teaching, or your fortieth.

This is social studies. Not a collection of dates and names, but a way of inquiring about the world. We hope you’ll join us on our journey.

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Rebecca Vandersluis

This fall, we are spending time getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Rebecca Vandersluis, one of our Noyce Scholars in the Masters in STEM Teaching Program.


I grew up in Maryland just north of Baltimore. After college, I moved to Florida to begin working in project management at CSX Transportation and have had the opportunity to live in many parts of the country: Maryland, Florida, Washington, Rhode Island, Tennessee, California, and Wisconsin. My husband is Captain Matthew Vandersluis, Commanding Officer of Navy and Marine Corps ROTC Unit here at Marquette. We have three teenagers and a black labrador named Maggie. In my free time, I enjoy walking, reading and baking. My family inspires me every day to keep working toward my passion and my goals.

I must say my current experience at Marquette is my favorite educational experience. I feel like I am able to be fully engrossed in the education and really want to learn. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a teacher but was discouraged from doing so. I actually received my substitute teacher license in California and transferred it to Wisconsin. After subbing in Wisconsin I thought I would look into getting my teaching license. My first call was to Marquette University where the Noyce STEM Teaching program was explained to me!

I feel as though many earlier decisions have led to this point and this feels like the cherry on top. The Noyce Program is giving me an opportunity to pursue a dream I thought I had let slip away. After graduation, I’m looking forward to having fun while helping my students realize anyone can learn Math.

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Dan Kim

This fall, we’re spending time getting to know our students a little better. This week, read on to meet Daniel Kim, a freshmen here in the College of Education. And, check out our other posts to catch up now!

daniel kimHi, I’m Dan Kim, a freshman studying in the College of Education. I am currently majoring in Secondary Education and Biological Sciences. I graduated from Adlai E. Stevenson High School just last May of this year. I honestly don’t think the idea that I’m a freshman in college has even fully hit me yet, as at no time during my senior year did it hit me that my time in high school was running out–not even during my graduation. I spent my time as a senior enjoying the little moments and relishing in the impactful ones. I’m definitely looking forward to my time at Marquette, making sure to make just as many memories as I did in high school!

I’ve actually lived in two different states before coming to Marquette. For the first five years of my life, I lived in the city of Chicago, constantly moving around from the city and its suburbs. I spent my childhood in Iowa City, Iowa, living there from age five to ten. When I entered middle school, my parents decided to move back to Chicago, so I spent four more years there. Right before I entered high school, my parents had caught wind of a phenomenal school located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, so they decided it would be best for us to move into that area. Currently, I am living in the suburbs of Chicago, but technically you could say that I’m living in Milwaukee since I am attending Marquette. I have lived in Milwaukee since the official move-in day for freshman students, so for about a month and a half.

Both of my parents work in the medical field; my dad works as an internal medicine doctor, and my mom is a registered nurse. I do have a sister who is currently a sophomore in high school, and I have to admit, she is much smarter than me. My family as a whole is not too different from any other Korean family in America. Of course, most people who come over to my house for the first time notice all the things that are a part of my culture than the typical American culture; for instance, most Korean families have an extra fridge called a “kimchi fridge,” and my family is no exception.

In high school, I was a part of many different clubs as an upperclassman. One particular club that I loved was an organization called Operation Snowball. The way I had always described Operation Snowball in high school to attract new participants was by explaining that it was like a summer camp held in the winter within just two days. In Operation Snowball, students can either be a staff member, or apply for a director position, and plan a two-day retreat. It is almost completely student-run; teachers who sponsor the club are mainly there to make sure everything runs along smoothly and to supervise without interacting all that much. My favorite part for planning an Operation Snowball retreat was deciding the different topics we would talk about and games we would play in our small groups. Every staff member, with a co-staff member, was in charge of a small group consisting of five to eight participants, planning different activities to become more comfortable with one another. The end goal was to be feel like a family by the time we left the camp.

One upcoming opportunity I am very excited for is studying abroad! I want to learn more about my culture and my language, and I feel that the best way for me to that is to study abroad in South Korea. I’ve been to Korea many times already, but I’ve never lived there. I was born in Chicago and never really felt too interested in my cultural heritage until high school. I definitely cannot way to make new experiences in Korea, especially the student life there, as I know it is much different from life here in the states.

After graduation, my goal is to become an Environmental Biologist. But I am not entirely sure what I want to do when I want to settle down and have a family, as Environmental Biologists travel constantly to different countries around the world. I had always had an interest in education, as I find myself enjoying teaching others subjects they might not know or fully understand, so I thought that I should become a teacher after being a biologist for twenty or thirty years. I knew I wanted to double major in biology and education, and I had heard that Marquette has a really good education program when I was applying for colleges my senior of high school.

During my free time, I usually find a place where I can sing, as it is one of my passions. In high school, I was a part of my school’s most advanced choir, as well as an all-guys acapella group called “Just the Guys.” I’ve taken voice lessons for two years as during my sophomore year I lost interest in playing the drums and picked up singing.

Singing to me is something I can do almost anywhere, as most musicians need to carry their instrument around if they want to play it. For us vocalists, we always have our instruments on us: our voice! Of course, your singing voice is going to be different from your normal talking voice, but your “instrument” will always be with you no matter where you are. I find singing relaxing, so I usually sing when I feel frustrated or stressed out from school work to let it out.

Practice whenever you can, and if you feel like you need more help, ask other musicians to hear you sing and give you constructive feedback on what you need to work on. Singing can be learned by anyone, as with any instrument out there. You just need to put in the time and effort if you want to become a respectable vocalist. Honestly, I don’t have a musician or a singer I really look up to. My favorite band is Imagine Dragons, mainly because I find their music very enjoyable, and I always look at the message any song portrays. Imagine Dragons does this particularly well, as most of their songs have some kind of deeper meaning. However, I wouldn’t say I look up to them as an inspirational figure.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next four years here at Marquette. Even though I’m only a freshman, I’ve already had quite a few great experiences with the great people I’ve met. I can’t wait for what Marquette has in store for me next!

Catching up with Courtney Farley

After completing student teaching last January, Courtney Farley finished out the rest of the academic year as a long-term substitute. However, with the new school year beginning, so is her new adventure! Courtney will be spending the next year teaching English in Spain. Read on to hear all about it.

farleyBy Courtney Farley

I grew up in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. I attended Queen of Apostles grade school, Catholic Memorial High School, and then found myself at Marquette. I have one sister, who graduated from Madison last year in biology and is now doing an accelerated nursing program at Madison. My mom works for Sherwin Williams in sales and my dad is a retired lawyer and now loves spending his days golfing. Finally, we have our dog, Guinness, who is a mini golden doodle and easily the family favorite.

I have been attending Marquette Basketball games ever since I could walk. My dad went to Marquette and so did a lot of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. I grew up surrounded by people who loved Marquette and I knew that there was no other college that I wanted to go to. I came into Marquette knowing I wanted to major in Spanish, but not knowing what I wanted to do with it. I have worked at a summer day camp every summer since high school and knew I loved working with kids. I transferred into the College of Ed my sophomore year and absolutely loved all the classes I was taking. The class size and relationships I have formed with my peers and with the professors are incredible and that is what I love most about the College of Ed. You truly feel valued and your professors want you to succeed and help you as much as they can.

Someone who has been an inspiration to me and has made a huge impact is my high school Spanish teacher, Señora Diedrich. She was so passionate about teaching Spanish and made me realize how much I love it. She created a classroom environment where we felt like family and weren’t afraid to make mistakes. She cared about each of her students and helped us along the way. I hope to make as big an impact on my students as she did on me.

I had such an amazing experience during my student teaching at St. Anthony’s in Milwaukee. I was placed in a third-grade classroom with an amazing cooperating teacher. Student teaching can be very nerve-racking those first couple weeks, but everyone at the school made me feel welcome and part of the St. Anthony family. My cooperating teacher always explained everything and always asked for my input and reflections on lessons. Taking over teaching and getting to use all that I learned at Marquette was awesome. Not only did I get to see what really worked in my classroom, I got to grow and learn through those lessons that didn’t go as smoothly. I was lucky enough to get to stay at St. Anthony after student teaching and take over a 4th grade class as a long-term sub. I continued to learn so much about myself and realized how passionate I was about teaching.

I am going to be in Spain teaching English to kids from ages 3-18. I am going through a program that allows me to pull out small groups of children to help them learn English. I just took an online class and got my TEFL certification. I am excited to put everything I learned from the class into practice. I will be living in a small city outside of Barcelona called Vilafant.

While I am in Spain, I will be staying with three different host families. I chose this program partly because I wanted to stay with a host family. I am excited to become a part of their family and live a true, authentic Spanish lifestyle. I am so excited to get to learn more about the Spanish culture and what it means to make Spain my new “home.”

I am also excited to continue to grow as an educator and see what other school systems are like outside the United States and how I can bring back what I learned abroad and implement it in my own classroom.

I don’t know anyone else doing the program. I am going over there and am a little nervous about not knowing anyone, but more excited for the possibility to meet so many new people. This will force me out of my comfort zone and allow me to learn more about myself. I’m excited for the chance to teach abroad and to learn from the people in Spain gets me excited when I think about it. I will be in a whole new country, but I will still be doing what I love, which is teaching, working with children, and experiencing new cultures.



School Privatization: Kelsie Lamb

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Kelsie Lamb

As the land of opportunity, America promotes the idea that anyone, even the poor, can work hard and attain success; but the increased privatization of schools is ensuring that some of the nation’s most marginalized students continue to trail behind their more privileged peers by making a quality education more difficult to attain.

Other than my two years in preschool, all of my schooling has taken place at private, Catholic institutions. My parents felt that our local school district was facing too many setbacks and challenges, so my brother and I would have a better chance at success if we did not attend our neighborhood public schools. Many other parents who have the financial means to send their children to private schools make the decision to do so. However, with many advocating for increased privatization of education and the rise of “school choice” programs, more and more parents are choosing not to send their children to public schools. School privatization is not exclusively an American issue; countries all over the world are facing similar debates and challenges. With the current U.S. administration pushing for school privatization and its global popularity, it is important to consider the implications of privatized education and the defunding of public schools through school choice programs. The current privatization of U.S. schools, while intended to benefit even disadvantaged students, ultimately upholds the nation’s long-lasting systems of inequality.

Various factors have led to the privatization of schools, culminating in the current U.S. administration’s push for school choice and the defunding of public schools. Joanne Barkan describes the rise of privatization in her comprehensive piece “Death by a Thousand Cuts.” In the 1950s, Economist Milton Friedman was a pioneer in the school voucher system, proposing that students use vouchers, which would be funded by the government, to attend their choice of private school. However, Barkan notes that from 1954–1959, in an attempt to avoid integration after the Brown vs. Board decision, Southern states “adopted whites-only versions of Friedman’s voucher system” that allowed white students to attend all-white private schools using public funds. Another factor that supported school choice was the rise of neoliberalism, which asserted that competition and choice create an increase in quality and efficiency. In the 1980s, this led to economic deregulation, cuts in government spending, and increased privatization, including privatized education. The desire to privatize was further exacerbated in 1983, when “A Nation at Risk” was published, a report written to show how American schools were failing. The panic about failing schools, combined with neoliberal thinking, led many to demand an overhaul of the education system and greater support for privatized education. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, today, fourteen states and Washington D.C. have voucher programs, and all fifty states “provide parents the ability to send their child to a school outside their neighborhood in some way,” whether it be charter schools, open enrollment programs, education savings accounts, or scholarship tax credit programs. School privatization in the form of school choice has been years in the making and continues to expand.

While some private schools, were founded to avoid forced integration, many privatization efforts have had good intentions. As Corey Iacono writes in his piece “Three Reasons to Support School Choice,” supporters of school privatization argue that it will improve “academic outcomes and save tax payers money.” Better results at a lower cost would be ideal, but in reality, the private schools that vouchers can be used towards often fail to yield higher test scores than their public school counterparts, says Joanne Barkan. Looking at charter schools, Barkan cites one report’s findings: “about one half of all charters perform at the same level as district schools, about one quarter perform worse, and about one quarter perform better although often by a minuscule amount.” School choice programs can give some parents, who may not have had the opportunity otherwise, to select what they feel is the best school for their child, including high-performing schools. But at these schools, Barkan says, many students who have behavioral or academic issues are “counseled out” so as not to bring down the school’s test results. As the product of private schools myself, I cannot say that a private education is inherently bad; I am grateful for the education I have received, the values I have learned, and the experiences I have had during my fifteen years of schooling. But as a future educator, I must acknowledge that not all students have access to the funds and resources necessary to attend a school other than their neighborhood school, and that the increased trend towards privatization is perpetuating the inequality that has left America’s marginalized students disadvantaged for years.

The United States prides itself on being a nation of opportunity and choice, so the ability to choose what school one’s child attends should embody these ideas. But for some opponents, the privatization of schools threatens some of America’s most important ideals; those who oppose school privatization say that school choice comes at the expense of not only public schools, but also democracy. The National Education Association, whose tagline is “Great Public Schools for Every Student,” argues that “Privatization is a threat to public education, and more broadly, to our democracy itself.” As Joanne Barkan discusses in her article, vouchers and charter schools receive public funds for each student who enrolls; therefore, public schools are receiving both less money and less students, leaving them to “inevitably deteriorate.” The deterioration of public schools is something I am familiar with. The school district of my city, North Chicago, has been overseen by a state-appointed superintendent for over twenty years due to poor performance and the mismanagement of funds. The district has been reorganized several times, and multiple schools were closed. Within this time, two charter schools were opened, one of which is now located in the building of my old preschool. While the charter schools are getting attention, no more funding is being given to the public schools whose test scores continue to fall well below average. The other abandoned schools serve as a physical reminder of public schools’ underfunding. As the land of opportunity, America promotes the idea that anyone, even the poor, can work hard and attain success; but the increased privatization of schools is ensuring that some of the nation’s most marginalized students continue to trail behind their more privileged peers by making a quality education more difficult to attain.

While school choice may be aimed at giving students new and better opportunities, ultimately, the privatization of schools leads to increased inequality. According to an article on school choice by the Washington Post, critics of voucher and charter schools say that the neediest children are being harmed by these programs because their parents do not have the means to “shop around” for schools or cannot afford transportation to schools further away; therefore, they are left attending their local public schools that are lacking in resources and funds. As discussed previously, the academic results of private schools who receive public funding are usually not any higher than the public schools. In the United States, the schools with high performance, as well as a wealth of resources, are usually the elite private schools whose tuition would not come close to being covered by a choice voucher. This trend is echoed throughout the world, including in the South American country of Peru. While spending a month in Peru, visiting both public and private schools, I saw that they too are facing similar challenges with privatization. For example, I visited two elite private academies, whose tuition could not be afforded by the vast majority of Peruvians. These privileged schools have libraries, computer labs, one has two 3D printers, and the other has a zoo, which houses endangered animals. Like the U.S., some Peruvians also have the option to send their children to privately-run but publicly-funded schools. Unlike the elite schools, these other types of private schools have limited resources; in the schools in the most impoverished areas, some of the classrooms sit empty for want of teachers. Maria Balarin describes this in her working paper “The Default Privatization of Peruvian Education and the Rise of Low-fee Private Schools.” Balarin argues, “Without the balances brought into public education by public funding and more direct regulation, private education goes from high-end schools educating the children of the global elite, to low-fee ‘garage schools,’ offering an education of sub-standard quality” (13). Both in the United States and Peru, school privatization not only highlights inequality, but also supports it by ensuring that the privileged continue to receive privileges, while the poor continue to struggle to have even the basic elements of schooling met.

In addition, the inequality caused by school privatization often takes the form of school segregation, as Nikole Hannah-Jones describes in the NPR interview “How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual Choices.’” In this interview, Hannah-Jones describes how the overpopulation of a majority white public school in New York City meant that white students would attend her daughter’s majority minority school. Many white parents were unhappy about this decision, and with privatization and school choice, they could opt to send their students to other schools where they would continue to be surrounded by their white peers. Just as those in the 1950s used school choice to avoid integration, similar situations happen today. Like New York City, Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the nation. I have had field placements in three private schools in Milwaukee, two of which were part of the Choice Program and one which was a charter school. These three schools were either majority African American or majority Latinx. I have only been in one Milwaukee public school, and it too was largely African American. It is important to acknowledge the role that individual choices play in maintaining this segregation, as Hannah-Jones suggests. According to a report done by the Century Foundation on school vouchers and integration, “90 percent of transfers in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program increased segregation in private schools, public schools, or both sectors.” Segregation and school privatization is not exclusively an American issue either. The U.S. News article “Worldwide, Public Education is Up for Sale” by Diane Ravitch describes how education has affected nations such as the U.K., Chile, and Sweden. According to this piece, Chile provides an example of how nationwide privatization leads to self-segregation “by religion, social class, race, and family income,” with limited educational benefits. In addition, Maria Balarin cites a report that “found that Peru — the one country in which default school privatization has been most marked in Latin America — is the country with the highest levels of educational segregation, and also the country in which pupils’ SES is most strongly correlated with their learning achievement” (12). The situation in Peru mirrors the U.S.’s, emphasizing some of the detrimental effects of privatization.

Although beneficial in theory, school privatization, when implemented, presents a series of challenges that cannot be ignored. Therefore, it is essential for educators to seriously consider the implications privatization has on both their pedagogy and practice. For example, those who claim to be social justice-oriented educators must actually act as teachers for social justice. Just as Nikole Hannah-Jones made the decision to send her daughter to a public school, educators must decide where their services are most needed. A private, suburban school may have more resources and better pay than a public, urban school, but educators must consider more than just that. Quality teachers are essential to a quality school and could positively impact on underfunded public schools. And if an educator does decide to teach in a private school, especially in one that is segregated, whether by social class or race, it is important to implement a diverse curriculum that will expose students to ways of life that they would not encounter otherwise. Educational philosopher and social activist Maxine Greene discusses this in her piece “Diversity and Inclusion: Toward a Curriculum for Human Beings.” In her philosophy, Greene reaffirms “the need to reject single dominating visions or interpretations”; instead, educators should expose their students to multiple viewpoints and cultures that are different from their own (218). Additionally, Hannah-Jones’ idea that her daughter is no less deserving than her poorer peers is also something that teachers should adopt; even in publicly-funded, under-resourced schools, the students are not only capable of academic success, but are also deserving of it. The potential and equality of all students is something that teachers must acknowledge. My experience with publicly-funded Peruvian schools is limited, but the teachers in the two I observed in demonstrated a genuine commitment to the success of all their students. Teaching with compassion and holding high expectations of all students is one of the ways to promote equity, even in segregated, marginalized schools. While teachers may not be able to implement new policies to decrease privatization, they can help combat its negative effects through their philosophy and practice.

Many politicians have argued for the privatization of schooling because by running schools like a business, they will be more cost effective and efficient. To supporters of this viewpoint, increased school competition will lead to increased school quality. However, this type of thinking is flawed. Schools are not businesses — their purpose is not to generate revenue, nor should it be. Students are not customers. Education is not a commodity. It is a right, as declared by the twenty-sixth article of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. If the education system operates like the free market, then the poor will continue to be at a disadvantage because they will be unable to afford a higher-quality education. One of the roles of public schools is to give all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, a quality education that will help them succeed. If schools become businesses, this cannot happen and the cycle of poverty will continue. School privatization is a decisive issue and is being heatedly debated, and with the current president being a businessman, the push towards privatization will not go away anytime soon. But solutions and compromises need to be made in order to improve the integrity of America’s public schools, protect the interests of all students, and ensure the long-term success of our nation as a whole.

Works Cited

Balarin, Maria. “The Default Privatization of Peruvian Education and the Rise of Low-fee Private Schools.”

Barkan, Joanne. “Death by a Thousand Cuts.” Jacobin Magazine. June 16, 2018.

Brown, Emma. “‘School choice’ or ‘Privatization’? A Guide to Loaded Education Lingo in the Trump Era.” December 27, 2016.

Coleman, Emily K. “North Chicago, LEARN Reach Deal for Second Charter School.” Lake County News-Sun. May 11, 2016.

Cunningham, Josh. “Interactive Guide to School Choice Laws.” The National Conference of State Legislatures. June 15, 2017.

How the Systemic Segregation of Schools is Maintained by ‘Individual Choices.’” NPR. October 13, 2017.

Greene, Maxine. “Diversity and Inclusion: Toward a Curriculum for Human Beings.” Teachers College Record. 1993.

Iacono, Corey. “3 Reasons to Support School Choice.” Foundation for Economic Education. January 26, 2015.

Potter, Halley. “Do Private School Vouchers Pose a Threat to Integration?” The Century Foundation. March 21, 2017.

Privatization.” National Education Association. 2017.

Ravitch, Diane. “Worldwide, Public Education is Up for Sale.” U.S. News. August 9, 2016.

Strauss, Valerie. “What ‘School Choice’ Means in the Era Trump and DeVos.” The Washington Post. May 22, 2017.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The United Nations.

Comparative Analysis of a Critical Issue: Emily Chang

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Emily Chang

Language signifies power, and some more than others because of its relevance in society.

A contemporary educational issue that exists today is embedded within bilingual education and the value of learning a second language. This issue is a part of the US educational context and there have been various readings and research on this topic that looks deeper into the experiences from students and schools, especially those with a minority background. Bilingual education and dual-immersion language programs serve as a way to promote the acquisition of a second language and can be beneficial for students, but there are also conflicts that arise when not everyone is receiving an equitable type of education. This is especially relevant when it comes to putting together disadvantaged and advantaged groups in the same setting because within the US context, the ones that are still benefiting the most are those that already come in privileged. Language and power are interrelated and affect the relationships between these groups, particularly from the quality of instruction and encouragement they are receiving. It is also one of the many factors that can affect achievement in school for all students as a result from the support of the school administration or from their community (Valdes, 395). It is important to help minority students feel included and involved in the educational process and show them that there is purpose and meaning in the progress they are making.

Although there are cautionary approaches that should be taken towards bilingual and immersion programs, there are positives to this side that benefit both mainstream and minority students. Based on second-language acquisition theories and general interventions to address educational gaps between students, these programs were formed to alter the outcomes and help all students succeed within the school environment (Valdes, 410). Bilingual and immersion programs are based off second language acquisition theories, specifically by Long and Swain. Both had hypotheses that emphasized the importance of language availability to comprehensible input and opportunities for meaningful output with teachers and other students which bilingual and dual-immersion programs promote. Having these opportunities leads to something called, “negotiation for meaning” among students in second language acquisition (Lightbown, 150). This means it forces students to express and form their thoughts in the target language in a way for the native speaker to understand and is useful for task based instructions where there is a common goal for completing that task. By including this within programs, there is a sense of community and encourages collaboration among students despite their differences and their backgrounds. It prevents isolation that minority students may normally feel at other schools and a middle-class environment along with more availability to resources and opportunities (Valdes, 412). It also provides instruction for minority students in their first language and an access to a quality curriculum. Their academic successes show that low achievement is not just found in students from lower SES levels or backgrounds and depends on the type of instruction and support they are receiving (Valdes, 411). With the success of most programs that show the benefits from both mainstream and minority students, there are still aspects of bilingual and immersion program policies that are attempting to address two very different groups in a more equal way rather than equitable way.

The biggest factor is that there is less emphasis on the culture and identity of language-minority students, and just by introducing native language programs will not solve their problems (Valdes, 416). There should be an emphasis given to the quality of instruction and the way the target language of instruction is received by both minority and mainstream students. It should be modified in a way that is comprehensible and sufficient enough to respond to the needs of students who are in their early stages of language acquisition. There are also external factors that affect the interactions among these students as well, especially of intergroup relations and the impact of society on a larger scale outside of the classroom (Valdes, 417). Although students may recognize differences and the discrimination that exists, and they continue to befriend and interact with each other, mainstream students still come in with mixed feelings towards minority students and continue to make them feel different, but in more implicit ways (Valdes, 417). I have experienced and observed this in schools in the US where all students may interact with each other in the classroom, but conform to their own groups, excluding their minority peers for weeknight or weekend plans once out of the classroom or after school. A lot of the times they will not even say hi to each other in the hallways and students will not interact unless they are in the classroom. It is an indirect way of sending a message to these students and is harmful when it comes to realizing they are different in way that is based on their backgrounds and because they are less privileged than their other peers. This is not just relevant in the US but also from my experiences in schools in Peru as well.

At a public school in Cusco, they highlighted the importance of a quality and equitable education that welcomes the diverse needs and backgrounds of its students. Although this was in place, school personnel and even the director did not seem to fully be aware of the sensitivities that students who were different would feel among their other peers. The teacher in one of the classrooms we observed said that all the students were Peruvian except one, who was from Venezuela, and proceeded to point him out which had all the students look at him. Although the students were not unfriendly and the Venezuelan boy seemed used to the response he was getting, it was clear that he knew he was different and that his peers would not see him as one of them, even though everyone spoke the same language. It shows that even though schools may be committed to social justice, a curriculum may appeal more to majority students in subtle ways and goes hand in hand with the relationship between power and identity.

Identity and ethnic group affiliation is important especially among dual-immersion and bilingual programs because there is the mix of majority and minority students learning target languages. Culture and identity influence how students think and affects their willingness or reluctance to act certain ways in school (Lightbown, 66). It is also a key part of the context that students are a part of and the experiences they are having in and out of the classroom, because identity and culture capture the way students interact with the world. In a study done by Norton on immigrant women in Canada, she writes how motivation was not enough to understand their relationships with language learning and the world. “There were social situations in which they were reluctant to speak and these were typically ones in which there was a power imbalance,” (Lightbown, 66). Those experiences limited the chances they had to participate and continue practicing the target language outside the classroom. Identities that are determined on students can impact their performance and the way they learn which can be harmful in a student’s learning process. It could also lead to limited interaction or feelings of powerlessness even though students may not openly show it (Lightbown, 66).

Language signifies power, and some more than others because of its relevance in society. In many areas, especially in Peru, bilingual schools are becoming more common because of the high value there is placed in knowing English. As globalization spreads, learning English becomes a necessity for them and also the opportunity for a better life (Nino-Murcia, 122). Learning English comes more from an instrumental motivation perspective for Peruvians because it is a way for higher social status, better employment opportunities, and power in society. It also makes themselves distinct from everyone else. An eye-opening point in the experiences that students have within bilingual and dual-immersion programs are the expectations that are set for them. For minority students, this is a part of the struggle with identity and background within these settings. In many cases, acquiring English is an expectation for minority students which signifies that there is less emphasis in the encouragement and praise they may receive (Valdes, 417). In turn, their motivation to learn English may be more extrinsic because they are depending on what their parents want and an opportunity for a better future. With less emphasis and focus on how much minority students achieve in their L2 acquisition, it can have a detrimental effect on their learning process. This could be due to the fact that English is universal and more and more people are learning to speak it to gain advantages in life. Meanwhile, majority students are praised and are rewarded for being able to speak a second language like Spanish and people are more easily impressed at their progress because it is less of an expectation to be able to know a second language.

In Peru, I have learned that being bilingual in English and Spanish is highly valued and looked upon because it is signifies a higher SES, while being bilingual in an indigenous language like quechua and Spanish has suffered from discrimination and is not as valued (Nino-Murica, 125). During my observation in the English classes at La Inmaculada, I was able to ask some students what they thought about learning English and many of them gave similar responses. They highlighted that it would help them find better jobs in the future and better opportunities in life. One also mentioned how his parents encouraged him to study abroad in the US for a month which he did, and he explained how much it had helped him understand the importance of learning English even more once he returned back to Peru. At Fe y Alegria in Cusco, we learned that it was a bilingual school but with Spanish and quechua which was incredibly unique to see. The school stressed upon preserving the culture and language since it will always be a part of them. Although students came in embarrassed or hesitant towards their cultural background because Peru’s society looks down towards indigeneity, the school has worked to show students and parents to be proud of their heritage through several cultural celebration days and emphasis on the learning of the language.

In schools in the US and Peru, language shapes the way students see themselves and how students interact with each other. This also leads to a sort of power struggle among identity and language in bilingual and dual-immersion schools as students try to understand their role in the social world. A way to address the issues within bilingual/dual-immersion programs are to start by providing quality instruction in both languages for all students in a way that recognizes their achievement and success within the classroom. But it should also provide an environment where students feel welcomed and celebrate each other’s differences. By actively addressing equal educational opportunity through interventions on the school administrator’s part and committing to the benefits of all students, it can be a start to addressing these issues especially for minority students. By being aware of the implicit hierarchy of power that is present among classmates, there can be a step towards equity and social relations along with the community that they live in. Education is more effective and just when learning is relevant to the world around them and there are culturally relevant teachers who give quality instruction, encourage collaborative learning for both groups of students, and teach students to inquire about the world around them. Language acquisition is a complex process and affects the way we view our own identity, our self-esteem and motivation, and the way we interact with others. As a result, especially among bilingual/dual-immersion programs where there are mixed groups of students, it is important to emphasize meaningful teaching where students are recognized as relevant, contributing citizens in and out of the classroom even thought they may come from an array of backgrounds.

Works Cited

Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2017). How languages are learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mercedes Niño. “‘English Is like the Dollar’: Hard Currency Ideology and the Status of English in Peru.” Freshwater Biology, Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111), 1 May 2003,–971X.00283.

Valdés, G. (1997). Dual-language immersion programs: A cautionary note concerning the education of language-minority students. Harvard Educational Review, 67(3), 391–429.

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